The Stress Conversation-Part 2
By VANESSA HAMPTON
Last time I wrote about recognizing stress in “Do You See Yourself as Stressed?”
After reading it, you may have begun to see that you are under more stress than you even realized. So, now you may be left wondering what exactly to do about it.
In the same way that everyone is different in what triggers their stress, so is everyone different in what helps them manage their stress.
There are a few things that all of us as humans with a body need to do for ourselves, but there are also many other options that will appeal to us individually in order to help us find our calm and manage our everyday stress.
The first step is to recognize stress for what it is. Stress is fear based. Always.
Whenever you feel stress, it is simply information that something needs to change.
Take a step back and determine what your fear is. Maybe it is fear of failure. Fear of disappointment. Fear of losing control. Fear of … you get the point.
Identifying your fear can help you begin to change the situation or simply change your thoughts. In his book Shift Happens, author Robert Holden said “It is not the circumstance that is the stressor. It is our thoughts about the circumstance that is the stressor.”
What an empowering perspective because this means we are not at the mercy of our stress. We are in control of our thoughts and we have the power to change them.
Moving your body is vital, no matter what your stress triggers are. Forget the word “exercise” if that is overwhelming to you. This is not about weight management. This is not about what you “should” do because a doctor told you to. This is about the simple needs of the human body.
Moving your body may mean simply a 15-minute walk (if that is what is manageable at this point), pulling up a 20-minute video at home to follow, or even doing some bodyweight movement at your desk throughout the day.
Maybe it means attending one of those exercise classes that you keep putting off or finding a workout buddy to swim or hike with.
Whatever it is that works for you both physically and mentally! When you add exercise, or movement, to your day, you release endorphins in the brain which serve to calm. As an added benefit, you tend to feel accomplished and in control of your body and that feeling only adds to the de-stressing effort.
Choosing healthy in your eating habits and staying away from stress eating is the next step. When you turn to sugar to release those endorphins (the “sugar high”), you only set yourself up for a sugar crash and, in turn, force more sugar cravings long after the stress triggers are gone. The fact that you likely feel a bit like you have failed because you caved to the stress eating after the fact, only adds to the
Short term fix. Long-term disaster.
Always be intentional about your choices when you choose to eat for pleasure and eliminate turning to food to soothe your stress. When tempted, go take that 15- minute walk and notice the cravings subside.
Explore other options to manage your stress by mentally “shutting it down.”
One thing I did recently was create a vision board. I haven’t done this since high school but found it to be extremely therapeutic! It
not only forced my focus away from my stressors, it forced silence and reflection about what I want my life to be and how I want to feel. I sat down and cut out pictures and words from magazines. Anything that drew my attention without any other thought.
I found myself drawn to pictures of people relaxing and words and quotes surrounding calm and freedom from stress.
Just having this in front of me, made me smile, motivated me to make my emotional self more of a priority, and lightened my mental load.
Other activities such as knitting, puzzles, adult coloring, community classes (there are so many options here), books unrelated to work, book clubs, and creative cooking classes are great outlets to change the focus from your everyday.
Don’t be afraid to try something totally outside of your box! Take care of your mind, body, and spirit with things such as meditation, massage, acupuncture, or even reiki. Explore different avenues and mix it up.
The goal is to break away and give yourself a mental breath.
Finally (and this is the most readily available stress management tool in your toolbox), remember not only to take that mental breath, but actually physically breathe … and breathe deeply. When we are stressed we tend to breathe with the upper part of our chest. This is a signal of distress to our brain, which means it only compounds any existing stress.
Force that deep belly inhale and slow down your exhale. Pay attention to how your shoulders release and how much more calm your mind is with every one of those intentional breaths.
Remember that stress management is not just something that happens. Just like anything worthwhile in life, it takes practice and intention.
Commit to yourself today to take steps in better managing your stress, and just maybe you will strike a much desired balance in life that you have never known.